I had an opportunity to talk to a calligraphy artist, Shofu Koyama. I asked why she decided to pursue the path and where her passion came from.
– To become a calligraphy artist, was it your childhood dream?
– Haven’t you been learning calligraphy for a long time?
K：No. I’ve tried calligraphy when I was in second grade, but that was it. Till I happened to learn about design calligraphy, I didn’t do anything at all. I entered the design calligraphy world because of my work. As a package designer, I often asked to use calligraphy. I could ask others when I was working at the company. After becoming a freelancer, I started thinking it’s better to do it by myself.
Maybe it was about 12 – 13 years ago. I was thinking of learning design calligraphy. At the time, I met Mr. Hiramatsu, a design calligraphy artist.
– So, your life didn’t cross the path with calligraphy till then.
K：Not at all.
– Are design calligraphy and original calligraphy different?
K：Yes. Package designing and ads use design calligraphy, which is a more decorative style.
– So you started learning design calligraphy, but at the same time, did you start learning traditional Japanese writing?
K：Just design calligraphy. After seven years of practicing design calligraphy, I felt I couldn’t get any better. I need to practice the basics of calligraphy (traditional Japanese writing) if I want to get better. I checked through many different classes and visited an exhibition of Mr. Bokuden, who is a calligrapher. He teaches calligraphy as well, and I saw his students’ works. They were fascinating. I went to have a look at his class and decided to learn calligraphy from Mr. Bokuden.
It was exactly five years ago.
At first, I didn’t even know how to hold and handle the brush. I started from scratch, and it was fascinating.
You need three conditions to follow your path.
– What made you decide to go for the calligraphy world?
K：I think everybody has their path and role and follows their path naturally. To open the gate to the way, we all need three conditions; attributes, strong will, and environments. When we have all the requirements, the path appears in front of us as if someone is telling us to follow it.
I started learning at Mr. Bokuden’s when I turned 40. At the age of 42, I met all of my three conditions, and I thought, “I’m going to be a calligrapher. No, I should be a calligrapher.”.
At first, it was the environment.
My family came first when I was married, but I got divorced, and it changed. I could make a decision just for myself. Then, Mr. Hiramatsu asked me to do the exhibition with him. It was my first time renting the space and do it. I didn’t have a piece I could show. However, I had plenty of time to prepare for the exhibition because I lost my main design work at the time.
Next, attributes came to me.
I took part in the exhibition in Tokyo for the first time and received an encouragement award. Receiving a prize among many artworks encouraged me a lot.
Then, I was willing to spend more time on calligraphy.
I didn’t have a stable income, so it was not easy. But at the same time, I realized I was willing to make a living on calligraphy. The way of looking at the advertisement and signs in the street changed. I was following calligraphy with my eyes and not design. I went to Mr. Bokuden’s to learn when I got a chance. Hours of practice didn’t make me tired. I was enjoying a lot. I felt all my senses were going toward calligraphy.
The environment and receiving the award encouraged me to follow my want. I was more than sure that the gate to my path got open. So, I decided to pursue a career to be a calligrapher.
My works represent my love.
– What motivates you to create？
K: After I decided to be a calligrapher, I kept thinking about my role in this world. I felt like I shouldn’t do it for my self-satisfaction. When I found the reason to create my art, I could do it with real motivation. My conclusion required a great deal of soul-searching and thinking.
“My works represent my love. If I can make people feel better with my work, that’s my reason to keep creating my pieces. “
I don’t like to see my loved ones having a suffering or saddening experience since before. I want them to feel better, but there is not much I can do. If I could send them courage, relieve their pain, and give some energy through my works, that’s the reason to create my pieces. I think my work can take part to empathize and encourage others. On top of that, I can inspire people I’ve never met with my pieces if my pieces become known to the world.
If I put my theme of work in a word, it will be “live.”. I put my love, energy, and a message in my pieces, “ Let’s live together.” From now on, I will keep telling the world, “You are not alone. Let’s live our life to the fullest.”; because I think that’s my role.
Kindness and strength co-exist in her artworks. When I visited her exhibition for the first time, I got overwhelmed with power. I had seen other Japanese ink paintings before, but they were different from what I had seen. I thought, “How much energy did she put into one piece?”
After interviewing her, I now know why her artworks have so much power. Her pieces are full of love and hope. I believe her work is reaching other’s hearts somewhere today to tell, “Let’s live. You are not alone.”